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Re: Aquarium Photography

John wrote:

> 1. What is the best way to get high quality shots
> without breaking the bank? Digital, I have gleaned,
> yes? What should I look for in a digital camera?

I'm not an expert at it, but I've had some luck.  

Planted tanks have a DEFINITE advantage when it comes to
photography, since we usually have tons of light over 
the tanks for the plants.

I definitely prefer digital, since it's cheap, and you
can keep shooting over and over as is often required to
get the perfect shot.  (Those dang fish just don't stay
where I put them!).

Several things to look for in a digital:

1) Manual control.  You don't need full manual, but you need more
control than most beginner cameras give you.   Manual focus is
a good thing, since fish move in and out of the focus area quickly.  Also,
you won't be able to use the in-camera flash, so you need to be able to 
disable it.  On lower-end cameras this will usually result in the camera
switching to a VERY slow shutter speed, which means everything in the tank
will blur.  So, being able to manually control the shutter speed is very
useful.  My camera (HP618) was one of the cheapest I could find with 
acceptable manual control.   I can force the shutter speed to whatever I
want.   I can get down to about 1/30th of a second and still have good
lighting.  At 1/60th of a second, the shots come out a little dark, but
still usable.  Without manual control, the camera would default to a shutter
speed that was longer than 1/15th of a second, which would definitely blur.

2) because you can't use a flash, it's VERY useful to have a fast
lens.   This refers to the maximum aperture of the lens.  Many cameras
have a max aperture of about F2.8.   Mine goes to F2.4, which means it's
lens opening is a little larger than the F2.8, so it lets a little more
light in, which means it can deal with slightly darker situations.   The
"fastest" lens on an affordable digital camera I've seen is the Olympus
2040z, which has a F1.8.   That will let in MUCH more light than the
typical F2.8 lens aperture.   This makes the Oly 2040z a great choice
for aquarium shots.   

When I was buying a new digi-cam, My initial top price was $300.00, but I
couldn't find a camera that gave any manual control in that range.  I 
pushed my budget up to $350, and that's what I paid for my HP618.  It gives
manual control of aperture, shutter speed, focus, white balance, etc.   
The Oly 2040z was about $400-450 from any of the reputable camera dealers.
Be very careful if you find a great deal on a camera.  There are a ton of
shady camera dealers.   Their scam is that they sell cameras that are 
"gray market", which don't have a warranty, and often they strip out all
the accessories that should come with the camera, and sell them to you
seperately to jack the price back up.   

If your budget won't allow a $350-400 camera, it can be done with a 
cheaper camera, but it takes fiddling.  All the shots on my main 
aquarium website were taken with a camera that sells for less than
$150.00.   But, when I turned off the flash, it forced the shutter
speed very high.  In order to get shots of the fish, I had to
trick the camera.  I did this by aiming the camera at a bright
light, pressing the shutter-release button half-way down to lock
the exposure, then pointing the camera at the suject.  It was a
pain, but I managed to get some nice shots.

Some shots on my aquarium site:

And some pics taken with my HP618:


Chuck Gadd
Director of Software Development, Cyber FX Communications
e-mail:cgadd at cfxc_com  http://www.cfxc.com